The Bombay High Court on August 22, 2019, has clarified that all licensed restaurants can serve herbal or tobacco-free hookah and no action will be taken against them by the police as long as they comply with the provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 or COTPA.
A Division Bench comprising of Justice Ranjit More and Justice N.J. Jamadar was hearing a batch of petitions filed by various restaurant owners claiming that they had been facing harassment from the police who would not allow them to serve herbal hookah even after an order passed by the High Court in July wherein it had allowed Ali Abdi, owner of Sheesha Skylounge to serve herbal hookah at all his outlets.
In his petition before the court, Abdi had argued that provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, will not be applicable to tobacco-free hookah or herbal hookah. Accepting the argument, the Bench headed by Justice Ranjit More had allowed his petition.
The learned counsel appearing for the petitioners argued before the court that police prevented them from serving herbal hookah on the pretext that the said permission was granted to one restaurant owner only.
Clarifying the position, the court said that, "As long as the petitioners comply with the provisions of COTPA and do not serve any prohibited substance in the hookah parlour then no action can be taken against them. However, it is made clear that if it is found that the petitioners are selling/using any substance prohibited under the COTPA then surely an action can be taken against them.
In case, there is any infraction of the provisions of the COTPA as amended in the year 2018, the police officer, not below the rank of the Assistant Police Inspector, is empowered to take legal action for the infringement of the conditions imposed under COTPA act as well as taking action on the hookah parlours where drugs/narcotics are provided and consumed which falls under the purview of Police Department."